When I was twenty-nine years old I found out that I was pregnant – again. It seems that I’m one of those people who birth control just does not work for (as three of four of my children are birth control, of various types, babies). I was secretly happy, but pretended to be completely upset. My husband and I already had two children: a girl and a boy and the husband said that we were done with the babies.
Well, I kind of didn’t want to be done. So, when I found out I was pregnant I was excited. However, this proved to not be an easy pregnancy – and I struggled with many a kidney infection throughout the nine months. I was even hospitalized twice, dosed up with morphine, and hooked to an IV drip for three days. To say that it was an experience would be putting it mildly.
Due to all of the sickness I had endured, my doctor did frequent sonograms…just to check on our little baby boy. At the last sono he was measuring in at 10lbs – which was no surprise as my first son weighed 9lbs 11ounces. My doctor looked at me and said, “We’re going to have to induce you with this guy. I remember how big your first son was….and at this rate, you’re going to have a twelve pound baby.” Yikes. I agreed, wholeheartedly that inducing was the way to go.
So, the morning of July 24th rolled around and I was wheeled into the maternity ward for the long day ahead. Nurses pumped me full of fluids, hooked me up to the epidural (because that’s how I roll), and we waited.
At 1:26 in the afternoon, James Henry Franklin was born. I remember thinking, as they laid him on my chest, “Something is wrong.” I don’t know how I knew, but I did.
The nurse picked him up and started scrubbing him off and he had a seizure. I don’t remember much after that – I do know that they whisked him off to a different room.
My husband and I were worried – this was very different than it was with our first two children. I can’t remember how long it was, but no more than an hour later our doctor came back and told us that James had a high fever, and they couldn’t pinpoint the infection – so they were going to perform a Spinal Tap to try to narrow down possible problems.
Of course we said, “Yes! Do what you need to.” Results come back quickly for newborns – and James’s results were no different. The test showed that he was suffering from bacterial spinal meningitis – the most deadly kind. We didn’t quite understand how that could have happened – I mean, it’s not like he’d been out clubbing or anything. He was brand new.
The doctor told us that my placenta had become infected, probably due to all of the kidney infections that I had suffered through while pregnant. So, the placenta was feeding him poison and he had been basically dying inside of me.
At that first sono toward the beginning of July he was weighing over 10 pounds. When he was born he weighed 8lbs 15 ounces – that’s quite the large drop for a baby to make. We found ourselves thankful that we, my husband and I, are both giant tall people who make big babies….had that not been the case, James wouldn’t have been induced, and I don’t know – or want to think about – what could have happened.
The medical staff started treating James on IV therapy right away, in fact he spent the first two weeks of his life in a hospital nursery, hooked up to an IV pump. Naturally, I sat with him. I couldn’t bring myself to leave him. I will never forget those weeks – holding my sick baby, so afraid for him.
The medication that is used to treat this type of meningitis can cause hearing loss – and sadly this was the case for James. We didn’t quite catch this in James until he was six months old. He hadn’t been cooing yet, actually he only ever cried. He never made sounds to ask for things, he just smiled. Then when his first birthday hit and he still wasn’t talking, we had him screened. Sure enough, he had suffered hearing loss and only had 20 percent of his hearing. So, since he couldn’t hear us talking to him…he couldn’t quite figure out how to make words – anything other than a grunt, really. So, that’s when speech therapy began…which was a long road.
The bright side to this story (aside from James living), is that over time he did regain his hearing (almost all of it, he’s at 85% now) and though he has a slight speech impediment, he appears to be the everyday, normal, average eight year old kid (who just can’t say his r’s or t’s).
Our case was James was one of luck – I truly believe. We were lucky. There was no way we could have prevented his spinal meningitis from happening, and we were lucky that he had been induced and then immediately treated.
Thankfully, there is a way that meningitis can be prevented and although it wouldn’t have worked in James Henry’s case, it does prevent thousands of young people from contracting this deadly disease…. it is known as the Meningococcal Vaccine.
Currently, in the US there are two outbreaks at College Campuses: Princeton University and the University of California – Santa Barbara (Meningitis n.pag). Naturally, information about vaccination is now being spread around those campuses and surrounding areas. However, people need not wait to vaccinate against Meningitis – as the vaccine can be found at the doctors’ office.
There are five types of Meningitis: bacterial (the most deadly), viral (the most common), fungal (usually caught by people with immune deficiencies), parasitic (common in third world countries), and Non-Infectious (which is typically caused by injury). Currently, two vaccines exist that treat bacterial and viral meningitis: Meningococcal polysaccharide and Meningococcal conjugate – both of these vacinations (either one) should be given to young adults ages 11-12, with a booster shot at 16. Victims of this disease typically contract it between the ages of 16-21, so early vaccination is important. The vacinne itself lasts a total of ten years (Meningitis n.pag).
Though it can be treated, meningitis moves so quickly that it is often too late to save a patient suffering from this disease. This is why doctors urge parents to vaccinate their preteens early – in order to prevent a possible future outbreak.
Symptoms of Meningitis include: headache, dull aches, high fever, neck pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. The persistent headache and neck pain are often the tell tale signs of Meningitis and should not be ignored.
If Meningitis is not treated – the end result if often death or paralysis.
We are very lucky to have James Henry – and it was heart breaking to watch the struggle he had to not only live, but to also begin to hear and speak. We wish for no other parents to know the fear we suffered or for any child to know the pain James endured.
Please contact your doctor about the Meningococcal Vaccine today – and make sure you tell other parents about this deadly killer.
If you would like to know more information about Meningitis and the types, as well as transmission, please follow this link: http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html.